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DEP fields questions about Pa. quarry project

February 22, 2006|by BONNIE H. BRECHBILL

bonnieb@herald-mail.com

ST. THOMAS, Pa. - Officials from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection held an informational meeting Tuesday afternoon with the St. Thomas Township Board of Supervisors to discuss draft conditions and their enforcement for a proposed quarry.

The meeting attracted about 30 members of the public, most of them opposed to the quarry.

In 2003, St. Thomas Development Corp. proposed creating a quarry and asphalt and concrete plants on the site of an orchard west of the village of St. Thomas, off Campbells Run Road.

Many residents have opposed the quarry because of concerns about noise, truck traffic, vibrations, and air and water quality. A citizens group, Friends and Residents of St. Thomas (FROST) was formed to oppose the project.

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Roger Hornberger, district mining manager of the Pottsville DEP office, said he expects a final decision on the surface mining permit request in the next week or two.

"Any formal, final action is appealable" by either party, he said.

Marianne Quinn, who lives about a mile from the proposed quarry site, asked how to establish a baseline for her well water. Hornberger said she should have her water tested and have records that show the depth of the well, the water level and the date the well was drilled. He said the DEP would perform the water level test as a courtesy, even though she lives in a relatively safe zone.

According to DEP geologist Nate Houtz, the mining area has been reduced to 89.5 acres of the 352.5-acre tract because of a fault line. The rest is support area, he said.

Mike Menghini, DEP compliance manager, said homeowners within 1,000 feet of the quarry will have a pre-blast survey done to document the condition of their houses before any blasting is done. Seismic studies will also be done.

Houtz said that for the first three to six months of quarry operation, the blasting would be done outside of school hours. St. Thomas Elementary School is close to the quarry site.

After the three- to six-month period, "we would sit down with school officials and talk about a blasting schedule," Houtz said, which drew laughter from the audience.

Tuscarora School District Superintendent Thomas Stapleford requested 24-hour notice of blasting, and also wants the principal of the elementary school to have a radio on which quarry officials could notify her when a blast is imminent. Seismic and particulate monitors should also be on the school grounds, he said.

FROST President Fran Calverase, who attended the three-hour meeting, said that the DEP's decision "will almost certainly be a permit. Everything is within the parameters set by the law."

Calverase said FROST can do very little about the permit if it is within the regulations, "but there's always the Environmental Hearing Board. It's not an easy go, but it's a route that we can follow. You have to challenge the corporation itself on what it did to get the permit, and (the St. Thomas Development Corp.'s) track record is poor.

"The DEP people did a nice job on the presentation and did allay some of the concerns we all had," Calverase added.

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